The Pittsburgh Penguins general manager search is starting to get some names attached to it, and they have apparently cast quite a wide net in speaking with candidates.
Frank Seravalli, as well as Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe at The Athletic, have dug into some of the names and it is a collection of young, up-and-coming analytical minds and some of the usual retread suspects that you should not want to touch with a 10-foot pole.
Let’s go through some of the more prominent names that have been mentioned and rank them (in my view) in terms of how desirable they should be as a general manager candidate.
1. Eric Tulsky, Carolina Hurricanes assistant general manager
Tulsky has played a significant role in building one of the NHL’s best teams, is probably one of the sharpest analytical minds in the sport, and has a chance to be an outstanding general manager. He will be a general manager at some point, might as well be here. Going from a former Flyers goalie to a former Flyers blogger in the general manager’s office would also be kind of funny.
Carolina has a great front office, and they do not lose many trades or free agent signings While you can not credit the assistant general manager with all of that (Don Waddell still gets a pretty big say, obviously) they have still done a great job assembling a Stanley Cup caliber hockey team that is one of the best in the NHL. I would want to talk to the people that were a part of building that.
2. Jason Botterill, Seattle Kraken assistant general manager
When I first saw Botterill’s name mentioned I have to admit, I kind of brushed it aside. But Yohe’s article at The Athletic was pretty persuasive and if we are being honest he probably did not get much of a chance in Buffalo. Not only in terms of a short leash on a team that needed years to get better, but also because of one of the NHL’s worst ownership groups being above him. He has a ton of front office experience, has been a part of some really good teams, and while he has been in the general manager’s chair before, I do not see him as the same type of retread hire as some other names further down this list.
3. Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager
He said he will either be the general manager in Toronto next season, or he will be the general manager nowhere next season. But people say a lot of things in press conferences that are not necessarily true. What else is he supposed to tell that pack of angry dogs after another playoff flameout? “Yeah, I can’t wait to get the hell out of here and away from you idiots” probably would not go over well.
I have to admit, though, I have conflicting thoughts on Dubas.
On one hand, I do think he did a great job in Toronto in building a front office and an organizational philosophy. They built a massive analytics and sports science department, while Dubas was extremely aggressive in trying to build a contending roster. That is all important stuff.
Where I run into concerns is when you start to dig down into individual moves. Did they make the right moves? Did they abandon their plan? Did they focus on the wrong traits in players?
Here’s a thought: What if Dubas was telling the truth when he specifically mentioned “general manager” in Toronto or nowhere, and what if HE is your potential director of hockey operations with somebody else taking the general manager role?
4. Mathieu Darche, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant general manager
Similar to Tulsky in that I want somebody that did not already fail in another GM job, and somebody that is coming from a successful, winning organization. Aside from all of the winning, I just love the way Tampa Bay constructed its roster and the way it made moves to capitalize on its veteran core. The types of players they targeted in trades, the aggressiveness in using draft picks, the way they identify which players to keep and how quickly they get them signed.
5. Dan MacKinnon, New Jersey Devils assistant general manager
MacKinnon kind of blends together the traits of guys like Tulsky and Botterill. Analytics background, has history with the Penguins and was a key part of them acquiring some really significant players that won Stanley Cups here. Also part of a New Jersey Devils front office that built a heck of a hockey team.
6. John Chayka, former Arizona Coyotes general manager
Chayka’s name has been getting a lot of play lately, but I am not sure how I feel about this. I never fully bought into him in Arizona or what he was doing there. But it is also hard to fully evaluate his performance with the Coyotes given the ownership mess and the dysfunctional nature of the franchise. How many general managers would actually succeed in that? Not many.
7. Jason Karmanos, Buffalo Sabres associate general manager
I am going to be honest, I just do not know much about him other than the fact he has helped build a strong analytics department in Buffalo, was another name on the wall for those Penguins Stanley Cup teams, and has a connection to the Penguins and the organization. But what does that mean to a new ownership group? Probably nothing. Interesting name to throw onto the list, but I am not sure he is going to be one of the favorites here.
8. Marc Bergevin, former Montreal Canadiens general manager
This simply produces a giant yawn from me. He built a completely mediocre Canadiens team for a decade despite having some high end players at important positions. Carey Price’s peak years? Wasted. Way down on my list. But still not as bad as the other two options we still have to get to here.
9. Stan Bowman, former Chicago Blackhawks general manager
There are so many reasons why this should be a no. For starters, I am not sure what he has done to earn another chance in the NHL following the Kyle Beach mess. I am not saying people should not get second chances. But to get a second chance you need to make amends for your mistakes and work to fix it. Has that happened here? What steps have been taken other than taking a break from the NHL and being gone for a year?
Even if those steps have been taken, there is a strong hockey argument against Bowman as well.
I do not really care that the Blackhawks won a couple of Stanley Cups on his watch, simply because the bulk of those cup-winning rosters were drafted by Mike Smith and Dale Tallon. And when Bowman had to actually start replacing some of those guys and actually building the roster, he did an abysmal job. From 2016 until his firing last year, there was a strong argument to be made he was a bottom-five general manager in hockey.
Traded Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad.
Used Teuvo Teravainen as the cost to dump Bryan Bickell’s contract.
The Seth Jones trade and contract, which was a key part of his final offseason in Chicago where he legitimately tried to build a playoff team and instead built one of the worst teams in the league.
This would be a PR nightmare for a general manager that has done a crappy job for the past six years. Hard pass.
10. Peter Chiarelli, former Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers general manager
If your organization hires Peter Chiarelli for any role you are simply not a serious NHL team.
Aside from failing to build a playoff team around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, if you were to look at maybe 10 or 15 of the worst trades of the salary cap era, probably at least three or four of Peter Chiarelli’s trades are on that list. Maybe more.
Boston had nothing to show for Tyler Seguin within three years of trading him. Literally nothing. The whole trade just was gone. Every asset they got back. Gone. Nothing to show for it. That trade tree evaporated into nothing.
Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.
The picks that turned into Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier for, like, 26 games of Griffin Reinhart.
Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome.
Do the opposite of what he said in his interview. That might actually be a winning formula.